Chinese New Year Banquet

We headed out in the cold last night to attend an 8-course Chinese New Year Banquet at a local seafood restaurant. Hosted by local foodie walking tour guide, Shirley Lum, the evening was both delicious and informative, as Lum explained Lunar New Year traditions and discussed various aspects of the Chinese zodiac as we ate.

Seated at a table of nine people, I must say, the evening, while festive, wasn’t especially banquet-like. Dishes didn’t come out in order, and for the $50 per person charge, we certainly didn’t leave as full as we normally might have if we had gone on our own. it was an opportunity to try many new dishes, however, and Greg even made a new friend.

Because we were at a large round table with a lazy susan in the centre, I wasn’t able to get shots of all the dishes as they arrived, but I did my best.

Each place setting had two kumquats and two candies. The candies represented the red and gold packets of money traditionally handed out at Chinese New Year, while the kumquats also represented wealth and life.

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Have You Got the Balls?

Somehow during Chinese New Year celebrations last month, I missed out on the sesame balls. I had Dragon’s Beard candy and dumplings and many other traditional foods, but no sesame balls. As deep-fried sesame balls are one of my favourite treats, regardless of the time of year, I set off to Chinatown one day last week to rectify the situation. But I was curious – who had the best sesame balls? In recent years, I swore by Furama Cake and Desserts Garden on Spadina Avenue, mostly because it was the place I passed most often, yet my husband Greg frequented Yung Sing Pastry on Baldwin Street, as it was close to his office, and was adamant that the best sesame balls could be found there. So, we did a taste test – each of our favourites plus two others thrown in for good measure. I did my taste test knowing which ball was which, but Greg tasted each dessert “blind”, not knowing which ball came from which bakery. Our results were the same.

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